26.2 miles. 30,000 runners. 500,000 spectators. One city, united.
I had the opportunity to attend the Boston Marathon this past week. The strength of the running community, the passion of the city, and the electricity of the town were more than impressive. The energy was at a level that I have never seen before at a marathon event.
Although it’s been three years since the Boston Marathon attacks, the memories of that day haven’t been forgotten in the hearts and minds of millions of people. The images remain etched into memory – for better or for worse. As horrific as that day was in 2013, it truly was a day that united a city. It was an event that turned tribulation into triumph.
Banners and signs lined the course with the slogan ‘Boston Strong’. For participants, fans and spectators, these two words stand as a reminder that being defeated isn’t an option. Through the rallying cry of a city, no one is left behind and not a single person falls and doesn’t get back up. Like the old saying goes, “I’m here to help, and I’ve got your back.”
From the Other Side
I write about the experience from a side of the fence that I’m not usually accustomed to being on – from the other side, if you will. This time around, I was the spectator. While I didn’t participate in America’s oldest marathon, I stood at the finish line, soaking up the emotions of the athletes as they finished the race.
I stood in the same spot, for three hours, my feet cemented in the front row. Most others had been there for 2-3 hours before me to claim their ground. Just like me, they anxiously waited for their friends and loved ones to ‘finish strong’.
The guy next to me shared his memory of participating in the race three years ago when the bombing took place. Twenty minutes before the explosion, he took a photo with his wife in the exact location that one of the bombs went off. That’s 1,200 seconds before people lost their lives.
The lady on my right excitedly asked my wife’s name, and she told me to make sure that I pointed my wife out so that she could cheer for her and yell her name.
I was able to see the race winners cross the finish line and be crowned the 2016 Boston Marathon champion.
My eyes couldn’t keep up with the wheelchair competitors who raced down the home stretch in a dead heat for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place.
It was emotional watching visually impaired runners stay in stride with a guide on each side.
I ached for the four or five runners that collapsed 200 yards from the finish. The aches that I felt became goosebumps when other participants picked up the downed runners, hoisted their arms around them, and physically carried them the remaining distance, sending the crowd into an uproar.
I can’t say that I know what it would have been like on the other side of the fence, but I do know what it felt like where I was standing, and it was electrifying and inspiring.
Have you Experienced the Other Side?
I’ve been a participant in a number of races, and emotionally, I believe it is a completely different experience than being a spectator. From the standpoint of race preparation, mental strength throughout, and the focus of getting to the finish.
All too often, it’s easy to find ourselves ‘in the zone’ when we are doing a particular activity, or even in the midst of our busy lives. It can be difficult to see and understand something from a view other than what’s directly in front of us – especially when the task is physically, mentally, and emotionally demanding.
Sometimes, when we’re in the zone, the little details seem to pass us by. We can get so caught up in getting to the finish that we can forget to appreciate the journey. We can miss out on all of the exciting, fascinating, and inspiring things going on around us. In this state, it’s easy to self-judge – evaluating how ‘good’ we’ve done based on our individual performance. It’s easy to become a competition against ourselves. We gauge our self-worth on the final result – forgetting what we’ve learned in the process
The Boston Marathon, it’s city, and all that it stands for, taught me to appreciate to view from the other side. From the other side, I felt the pains of the runners. I felt the enthusiasm of 500,000 people. I felt the emotions of both the athletes and the spectators.
I felt bravery.
I felt courage.
I realized that being on the other side requires both of these traits. It is from putting yourself in someone else’s shoes that you can feel their pain, understand their struggles, and cherish in their victories. This is the case for any aspect of life – grieving loss of a loved one, battling through health issues, or struggling in your relationships with others.
You never understand a person until you consider things from his point of view – until you climb into his skin and walk around in it. –To Kill a Mockingbird
Until you are courageous and brave enough to be on the other side, you will never fully understand ‘what it’s like’. Is there an area of your life that could use the perspective of the other side? How might your outlook and opinions change if you placed yourself there?
Thank you, Boston, for teaching me this lesson. Thank you, for allowing me to have this experience – from the other side.